Congratulations, Congressman Garamendi!

The headlines from the elections last night was clearly about the two gubernatorial races, but there were other news as well.

Health advocates across the nation can take some solace that TABOR (so-called “Taxpayor Bill of Rights”) spending cap initiatives were defeated in Maine and Washington states. California voters have defeated spending caps twice in the past five years, and hopefully steam is running out of these artificial attempts to handcuff government’s ability to meet the needs of its citizens.

In the House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will on Thursday have two more votes for the health reform proposal that is up for a vote Saturday or Monday. New York’s 23rd district is sending new Congressman Owens, and California’s 10th district has our newly minted Congressman John Garamendi.

Garamendi, Lt. Governor for one more day until he takes his seat, is a advocate for consumers and a verified health policy wonk, as a former Insurance Commissioner who was very active and influential in the health reform debates in the early 1990s. (Update: Ezra Klein and Jon Cohn have more on his health wonk ways.) Last year, he helped us launch the Health Care for America Now campaign in Los Angeles in July 2008 (see photo), and became then the first elected politician nationally to sign the HCAN Statement of Principles. It is totally appropriate that his first act in Congress will likely to be to vote for the historic health reform package.

We’ve been sending some real health care champions and experts to DC recently. Earlier this year, Congresswoman Judy Chu was elected, like Garamendi, to replace another Obama appointee, and arrived just in time to provide a historic vote. A fighter for health care as chari of the budget subcommittee on health when in the Assembly, she quickly filled former Rep. Hilda Solis’ shoes on the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee as it passed health reform out of committee on her first day.

And last year, a San Francisco district elected Rep. Jackie Speier, who was a longtime chair of the Insurance Committee when in the state Senate, and co-author of SB2, the expansion of employer-based coverage that passed in 2003.

The seniority system of Congress suggests they won’t necessarily be out front, but they will play a key role. It’s heartwarming to know we have such good people who are so knowledgeable and passionate about health care entering Congress from California, augmenting the leadership of Californians like Speaker Pelosi, George Miller, Henry Waxman, Pete Stark, Xavier Becerra, Lois Capps, and others.

For this round of health reform and into the future, Californians will be the movers and shakers.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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